Why People’s Commitments Change? (Part II)

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There is only one important reason why people’s commitments change. Commitments change because people and situations always transform which are often beyond human control. Married couple’s commitment to love one another, for instance, can change because one or both partners alter their perception or love for the other due to physical change. A change in one’s body because of age, illness, or a “loss of a youthful and sexy body” can sometimes alter a partner’s love for the other. So many couples separate because the husband or wife finds the other “unattractive” due to age, disease, neglect, etc. If the married couple lack strong spiritual values, then more likely the physical change lead to a “lost of love” in one or both partners.

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Another factor is the change in the social circumstances. Situations do change that can force committed people to change their views of the other. For instance, a young and happy couple living a middle class lifestyle may experience frequent fights that can eventually lead to separation due to economic pressure when their businesses are down or bankrupt. Or a happy couple can end up filing a divorce when one partner discovered that the other has a one-night stand with a beautiful person. People in society live in social networks. They cannot avoid meeting with “exciting people” with other circles of friends.

Lastly, people stayed until death in a marital relationship because they accept and forgive their partners’ faults and betrayals. This implies a strong philosophy and spirituality in life that can strengthen people’s resolve to love their partners “no matter what” because they believe in something supernatural. Commitment in relationship implies daily negotiation between partners and a spiritual resolve to stay together because they love one another in front of a Supreme Being.

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Photo credits: Freedigitalphotos.net, shutterstock

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What is Platonic Love? Can it become Romantic?

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Fig. 3.7 “Sister And Brother Friendship” by Artur84 (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

“True friendship comes when the silence between two people is comfortable” (David Tyson Gentry).

WHAT IS PLATONIC LOVE?

Platonic love (often lower-cased as platonic) is a term used for a type of love that is non-sexual. It is named after Plato,  although this philosopher never actually used it himself. Instead, it comes from Plato’s dialogue, the “Symposium,” which discusses the different types of Eros (love).

Platonic love is a bond between a couple that involves no lust or carnality; often a deep pure love. Its symbol is usually the white rose. A simple example of platonic relationships is a deep, non-sexual friendship between two heterosexual people of the opposite sexes. A platonic relationship is one without romantic or sexual intentions. It can be considered as a “romantic friendship” i.e.,  a close, physically intimate but not sexually intimate – friendship.,

Platonic love in its modern sense is an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise. It is a deep, non-sexual friendship between two heterosexual people of the opposite sex. Platonic love is ‘close affection between two persons, attracted to each other, but without sexual intimacy’ [1]. It is a purely spiritual and emotional and presumably free from physical desire. St. Claire and St. Francis of Assisi  who are known as two great Catholic saints in the Catholic Church were said to be close friends spiritually as followers of Christ without sexual intimacy. Their type of intimacy and friendship were based on a common love for God; thus, they can be considered Platonic and not romantic. “The love between friends is platonic love. Platonic describes a relationship that is purely spiritual and not physical. So, if a guy and a girl hang out all the time but aren’t boyfriend and girlfriend, they’d describe their friendship as platonic” [2].

CAN PLATONIC LOVE TRANSFORM TO ROMANTIC LOVE?

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Yes, but once platonic becomes romantic, it’s difficult to return to its original platonic state. Best friends can fall in love romantically depending on the situations and personal goals of the partners. However, platonic love has no intention of entering into an exclusive erotic relationship nor entering into marriage, while romantic love aims to achieve an exclusive relationship, with lovers “going steady” and  to “tie the know” in the altar of matrimony.

Despite these differences, platonic and romantic love also have similarities. Attraction, intimacy, respect, support and pleasure are just as important in platonic relationships as they are in romantic relationships. Closeness matters in romantic as well as in platonic relationships.

But whether it’s platonic or romantic, the most important thing is the love couples share for one another. In the words of Plato: “Love is the joy of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the Gods.”

References

[1] Gooch, 1989, p.360 cited in Karandeshev, 2015, p.4.

[2] https://www.wikihow.com/Understand-Platonic-Love-and-Friendship.

The Sociology of an Unrequited Love

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        An unrequited love is a type of romantic love that is common among young lovers who misread verbal and nonverbal cues of their beloved and who have yet to learn about their own romantic needs and wants. “Unrequited love is the result of one person deeply wanting an intimate relationship with another who simply is not interested and who does not reciprocate.” Unrequited is often the result of mismatch of personal attributes between two people. One person may find the traits of the other attractive but the latter does not find the former’s physical or personal attitudes worth exploring. Sometimes, this happens in a mismatch in physical qualities. The person pursuing may probably be too “ugly” or “beautiful” for the other or vice versa. Society often expects compatibility. If the girl or wife is beautiful, it also expects that the boy or husband is also attractive or least not within the range of what is culturally acceptable as “beautiful”. If they enter into a romantic relationship despite this incompatibility, one partner may have found a redeeming factor from the “unattractive” partner, probably in terms of social status or wealth. Thus, a beautiful young lady can fall in love with “ugly” old man because of the latter’s wealth and social connections which can provide her with material security and higher social status.

      There was one girl in one college who is madly in love with a guy who does not respond to her initiatives. She sent him gifts and often met him and offered him friendship and warm care. She even went to the extent of becoming a stalker, following him wherever he went. But this one-sided affair did not materialize into a romantic relationship. The guy further ignored this girl and transferred to another school and residence just to avoid her. Unrequited is, indeed, painful to the person falling in love. This could have been avoided if he or she would stop after few attempts to invite the other to enter into a romantic relationship. Of course, this is not easy. The main reason why a person cannot just stop initiating his or her courtship despite being avoided by the other is infatuation, i.e., the strong and irrational feeling of caring and longing for intimacy with the other by the person falling in love with. Infatuation is not easy to stop. Only time can heal it and by distancing oneself completely from things or people who can remind him or her of the person one is falling with.

      But this is not always the case. There are some situations where persistence in courtship pays. Depending on their upbringing with regard to loving and cultural taste, there are some girls who love to be pursued, either as a test to know who among the suitors is serious in his proposal. Others are probably conservative or religious that they go beyond physical traits of their suitors and look for good spiritual values they expect from their partners.

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Photo credit:

1. “Woman Refusing Apologies from her Boyfriend” by David Castillo Dominici (Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

2. lifehack.org

 

 

How would you feel if your life turns out opposite to what you plan?

How would you feel if your life is radically changed by society, opposite to what you want it to be?

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Most people are sincere to plan their life according to what they see as fit to their life goals and values. But sometimes, society and historical events alter this plan and turn it opposite or substantially different from what the person intends it be.

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I remember the late Father Diego whom I personally knew when we were still studying in the same college seminary. He was an intelligent, honest, and God-fearing seminarian. I  predicted that he would be a good and holy priest, judging from his personality and piety. Few years later, I heard that he was ordained priest and was doing well in his ministry.

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But my prediction turned out to be totally different from what actually happened to him, some few years after his ordination. I didn’t expect the tragic ending of his life. He encountered personal and pastoral problems in his ministry as a diocesan priest. He met a woman whom he didn’t know to have secret vices. He left the priesthood and live with her. Soon he discovered that his partner had a secret relationship with another man, addicted to cigarettes and gambling. He also faced poverty after he left the ministry. As an ex-priest, he could not find a stable and high-paying job. He was also lonely and had lost contact with his brother priests and old friends in his parish.

As his personal and economic problems piled up, Father Diego suffered a serious stroke and became totally confined to a wheelchair. The infidelity of his partner intensified when he became totally disabled. Neglected with no money and friends who could help and cheer him up, Father Diego died at an early age of around 40 years old. What appeared to be a life of service and holiness for Father Diego became a life of suffering, frustration, and even excommunication by the Church he loved.

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The German sociologist Max Weber speaks about the 2 consequences of human action and decision: The intended and the unintended effects. The intended effect is the purpose of a person’s action, while the unintended effect is the unforeseen effect of his or her action. According to Weber, one cannot avoid the unintended effects of human action. What is intended by the actor for his or her life may be good and noble but because of historical events beyond control, the result of the action maybe negative or opposite to what he or she intended. Father Diego is a deeply religious and sincere person who intended to follow Christ and serve people in the Church. But because of problems and life circumstances beyond his control, what he intended for his life did not occur but the unintended consequences such as leaving the priesthood, neglect and infidelity of his girlfriend,  and frustration. Indeed, life can be cruel if one is not prepared for the future.

Photo credit: shutterstock

 

Why People’s Commitments Change?

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INTRODUCTION

Why people’s commitments change? Despite the fact that people promise to love one another or married couples take the wedding vows seriously, permanent commitment to stay together is not always attainable.

Well, let me just explain here two important reasons why commitment in a relationship changes despite the serious promise of couples to stay together no matter what happens in the future.

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First, people change. Thus, what people promise today may change through time. There is one theory in anthropology and sociology which states that a person is an open system. This means that a person’s self is always being influenced by culture and society. It is not a finished product. The moment the person is born, the mind begins to receive impressions and images based on experience that gradually form his or her self. This continues until his or her death. Thus, a person’s perception of his or her self as a committed loving person in a particular historical moment such as the wedding or engagement day is still subject to future historical events that can break this commitment, which he or she may not foresee or anticipate. One lawyer married his wife but has not made a formal break-up with his girlfriend. Five years later, they accidentally met each other. Despite his marital promise to love his wife forever, he did not expect that he would commit extra-marital affairs with his former girlfriend.

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Second, society and social environment surrounding the relationship change, thus people’s loving commitments change. Depending on the value system of the couples, historical events often change people’s commitment. For instance, the couple undergoing extreme stress due to poverty and  financial problems after marriage can lead to divorce or separation. Job loss or retrenchment due to economic recession and underdevelopment may affect people’s commitment. Maintaining a relationship implies resource allocation. It’s difficult to maintain a relationship without the necessary resources and money to meet the needs of the couple and their dependents.

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The advent of the Internet and digital technology can be both a blessing and a curse. The cyberspace and mobile technology have done a lot of advantages to create and maintain romantic and marital relationships. But this societal change in technology also facilitate infidelity, relationship break-ups, or separation of married people, since it is very easy to meet new people in the cyberspace and social media with numerous dating sites and chat rooms. Again, people may be very committed with their loving relationships, but with the constant technological change in society that facilitates infidelity, commitments become more difficult to maintain. Unless the couples believe in something supernatural or some form of spirituality as a foundation of their loving relationship that transcends the material world, maintaining a commitment will always be a great challenge to every one living in today’s fast-changing technological age. Cheers!

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Photo credit: shutterstock

Does Age Imply Control in a Relationship?

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Age does matter in a relationship whether one likes it or not. Although there other personal and social factors that can affect the social interaction of couples in a particular society, age definitely has an effect on the way partners relate with each other. Age is an informal social norm that somehow affects social interaction. The higher is the age, the higher is the influence of the older partner over the younger companion. Because he or she has more experience, the older partner will tend to guide the younger mate. This is particularly true if the age gap is wider.

Age implies length of experience in life. Older people have more encounters with tragedies and problems in life compared to younger ones. Thus, they tend dominate younger partners because they tend to believe that they know better than the other. Of course, this is only a general rule, since personality and other social factors can overcome this tendency. Thus, a younger partner with a domineering personality can control an older partner with a weaker personality. For instance, a gut person can easily dominate a heart or head person despite the age gap. Inspite of this, older people still tend to play the parent role in the relationship in general.

Thomas Anthony Harris published a classic self-help book entitled I’m OK – You’re OK as a practical guide to transactional analysis as a method for solving problems in life.Transactional analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory and method of therapy wherein social transactions are analyzed to determine the ego state of the patient. A person’s ego can either act as a parent, adult, and child depending on the situation.

The problem with older partners in a loving relationship is that they tend to often act on their parent egos and dominate the younger partners who are forced to act on their adult or child roles to avoid conflict in their daily interactions. Thus, depending on the cultural standards, it is advisable that the age gap of lovers must be not very wide as this can pose problems both in their personal interaction and relationship adjustment. Maybe, 5 years or less is age gap is preferable, but more than 10 age gap can be challenging for couples to maintain their relationship. Of course, what matters most are the maturity and commitment of the partners to stay together despite the odds in the relationship.

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Photo1:     Hollywood couple with 20-year age gap: JASON STATHAM AND ROSIE HUNTINGTON WHITELEY (Photo credit: ALBERTO RODRIGUEZ/NBC/GETTY)

Photo2: Harrison Ford and his wife Calista Flockhart with 22 years age gap (Photo credit:STEVE GRANITZ/WIREIMAGE)

Does Age Matter in a Romantic Relationship?

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“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” (Mark Twain).

INTRODUCTION

The saying that “Age doesn’t matter” is a popular expression among people for those who fall in love with a wide age gap. They say that love is blind. So, it’s okay to be blinded by the age of one’s crush or lover. Experts on romantic love acknowledge that falling in love is indeed a strong positive energy that makes a person less aware of the consequences of having a big age gap in romantic relationship. One can be so enamored with the other person’s beauty, popularity, personality, social status, or wealth, that he or she forgets that the other person is either too old or too young for him/her! I already encountered some people who fell in love or even got married despite a wide age difference. When I was a boy, our 20-year old nanny was having a secret love affair with our 60-year old neighbor who was a widower with married children. It was indeed embarrassing during their wedding ceremony as the officiating priest had mistaken the groom as the parent of the bride and one of the young best men as the groom! Despite the age gap, they manage to have 3 children before the old man died.

AGE AS A SOCIAL NORM IN SOCIETY

Age really does matter in relationship despite romanticism of some people that it doesn’t affect romantic relationships. In sociology, age is an informal and unwritten social norm. Society has some standards on what age bracket is appropriate for a particular type of relationship, depending on the local culture. Whether one likes it or not, society has a way of classifying people engaging a particular type of social interaction. Defying this informal norm in a romantic relationship can lead to unintended informal and psychological sanction from the public, such as ridicule, suspicion, rumor, gossip, digital bashing in the social media, or even public shaming by people who strongly oppose the relationship. Try to hold hands and show romantic affection with an older man or woman while walking in a public park and you’ll never miss seeing people whispering or giggling in disbelief, or staring at you as if something is terribly wrong, especially when you’re in a rural setting! Generally, women like their men to be a little older and more experienced and mature in life. But if the age gap is quite wide, many people would probably start to think that it is not romantic love or true love that motivates the attraction but something else, maybe the wealth of the older partner.

Age as informal norm in society is not, however, an absolute rule! One can see couples with a big age difference. Among the Hollywood celebrities, the famous actor Michael Douglas and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones were married despite their age difference. These Oscar winners tied their knot in 2000, when Catherine was 31 years old and Michael was 56.

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Michael, 56 years old, with wife Catherine, 31 (Photo credit: hollywood.com)

In the Philippines, the famous folk singer Freddie Aguilar fell in love with a 16-year old girl and managed to marry her in Islamic rites. Under the Shariah law, a 16-year old can contract a valid marriage but not under the current 1987 Family Code of the country for Christians. Apparently both decided to change religion to tie the knot.

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Freddie, 60 years old, with his 16-year old wife (Photo credit: Poklat.com)

Another famous noontime TV host and comedian married a younger woman more than twice his age. The 61-year old veteran Filipino comedian Vic Sotto married the 27-year old TV host Pauleen Luna in a private wedding.

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Pauleen Luna, 27 years old and Vic Sotto, 61 (Photo Credit: gmanetwork.com)

If it is not an arranged marriage sanctioned by culture, people can be suspicious of the motive if they see romantic couples with a wide age gap. They often suspect wealth and/or social status as the main motive why the younger partner “falls in love” with the older guy. This suspicion can have a grain of truth. Normally, people are first attracted to others through their physicality. People project and communicate to the world though their bodies. Appearance matters during the initial encounter of partners in romantic love. Many surveys showed that the person’s eyes as the sexiest or most attractive body part during infatuation. They say that the eyes is the window of the person’s soul. The woman’s big breasts and butts associated with femininity and fertility are also attractive to men, while a tall height, a flat and strong abdomen and chest are attractive physical traits for women. But old people generally cannot boast their physical assets to attract younger people to enter into a romantic relationship with them. Thus, people become cynical of seeing a young and old couple romantically linked with each other.

Physicality, however, can take a backseat if the young and old partners become intimate and learn more about the cultural or non-physical aspects of the relationship such as knowing the other’s attitude, personality, social status, and value system. So people can be suspicious if a poor young woman falls in love with an old rich man as the latter’s youthful physicality has already been deteriorated by age. If he is not extremely handsome and sexy despite his age, it is understandable for them to conclude that it is not the physical appearance but probably the person’s wealth and social status that motivate her to love the other. Age then matters in discerning whether the relationship is truly a romantic love that can lead to marital love or just what the sociologist Anthony Giddens calls as “confluent love” or a contingent form of love without commitment, a love that is based on mutual and temporal satisfaction of the romantic partners–“enjoying the relationship while it lasts.”

In the next blog, we’ll discuss why a wide age gap can be a problem in the interaction and adjustment of the couple as they stay longer in the romantic relationship and marriage. This will also show that age matters in romantic or marital interaction! Cheers!

 

 

Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

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The famous quote (most probably by Margaret Wolfe) which says: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is assumed to be true by many. But for sociologists, this quote may be partly true and partly false.

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In the commercial world of art, for instance, beauty does depend on the eyes of ordinary people or viewers but in the eyes of the art critics and patrons who determine what is beautiful and what is not, what is priceless or cheap in the art world of museums, auctions and art exhibits.

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It’s true that art can be subjective. It depends on the beholder or the person who sees and evaluates a piece of art. And since each person has his/her own culture and notions of beauty which s/he learns from his/her own society, judgments on what is beautiful or not vary across various nations and nationalities.

But commercial art has its own subculture and notion of beauty where art critics and patrons reign supreme! These gatekeepers determine the standards of beauty and the price of art in the world of auction sales.

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Is it Natural to Fall in Love? Check this out!

 Have you experienced falling in love? What was it like? Did it feel natural?

      One biological theory suggests that falling in love is like “being drunk.” The love hormone can make people fall in love, making them “drunk” with erotic passion and altruism. Scientists who prescribed to this theory identified the hormone associated with falling in love as oxytocin, a hormone produced in one part of the brain called hypothalamus which is said to be playing a significant role in bonding, falling in love, and making friendship. To some social scientists at the School of Psychology at Birmingham University, the love hormone of oxytocin has an intoxicating effect to lovers similar to alcohol. It relaxes people and removes their social inhibition, anxiety, and fear when falling in love with their partners. It increases their pro-social behavior such as generosity, empathy, and trust and makes them feel more relaxed, happy, and confident in their romantic relationship.

     The biological approach to romantic love suggests that falling in love is primarily influenced by people’s biological or physiological make-up and not by the social environment is somehow unacceptable to sociologists. To sociologists, falling in love is basically a socially-learned experience and behavior, determined by societal factors and not merely by hormones. The biological and bodily reactions felt by people when they fall in love are triggered and shaped by cultural forces outside the self. In the sociology of emotions, for instance, sociologists believe that people’s emotions are determined by society and culture. Thus, people’s deep feelings and emotions of love are primarily a product of cultural and social conditioning. In the same manner, people’s romantic feelings and expressions are learned and shaped by the local culture and not solely by biology. In many primitive societies, for instance, where arranged marriages and betrothals are common cultural practice, romantic love between the bride and groom is not a prerequisite for marriage. The feeling of falling in love and romance is nonexistent in these societies because there are no romantic things and expectations that can trigger the so-called love hormones and people’s minds are not ideologically conditioned to fall in love. Therefore, the idea that people must fall in love in courtship before marriage is not universal or found in all human societies. In many non-Western societies, couples do not fall in love before marriage. Some couples do not even know each other before the wedding. In these societies, the families and relatives are tasked to find the lifelong partner for their bride or groom and arrange the marriage. In Southern Philippines, a council of Muslim elders decided the marriage between a young and beautiful 20-year old girl and a 60-year old Moro rebel leader who already had 3 wives. The girl neither personally knew nor met him before their wedding. She only knew him through a photo given to her by the council before the ceremony. Thus, there was no falling in love and romantic love between them before marriage. And the marriage seemed to work well and they were blessed with beautiful kids. In Bangladesh, the youngest marriage in the world took place without romance and falling in love. According to 2001 Guinness Book of World Records, the youngest marriage involved an eleven-month-old baby boy and a three-month-old girl. The marriage took place in order to end a twenty-year feud between the children’s families (Delaney, 2012). These two cases illustrate that falling in love is not always required before marriage. It is not a natural or biologically-determined behavior such as drinking or eating which can bring death to the couple without it. People will not die without falling in love and romance. Think of the thousands of celibate Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and other religious monks and religious who live normal and generous lives despite being unmarried and chaste throughout their life. For sociologists, falling in love and romantic love are social constructions of society that started in the late 18th century in order to preserve the institution of marriage. Because of industrialization, migration, and urbanization, the influence of families and relatives in the arrangement of marriages declined. Thus, society has to create and manage various socialization tools such as romantic music, novels, films, posts, cards, stories, and other romantic things and processes in order to condition people’s minds that to fall in love is natural and a necessity for marriage.

     If falling in love and romantic love are socially learned behavior, then people should have some control over them. With sufficient knowledge about what men and women look for in their partners, romantic people, for instance, can change or enhance their looks and appearance. With the advent of modern medicine, cosmetic surgery, and other physical enhancing technology, they can change and improve their looks and appearance to make them attractive to their crushes or partners. They can also manage and improve their personal impressions in social interaction and dating by taking up personality-enhancing courses to make themselves romantically desirable and attractive to others. Through sufficient knowledge on the dynamics of romantic love and falling in love, they can, furthermore, discern which of their suitors are deserving of their true love and which of their romantic relationships is deceptive, obsessive, or authentic and leading towards marital commitment. Finally, they can structure and schedule their social functions to make themselves visible and desirable to people whom they want to establish romantic relationships. It is not true that real love and romance are written in the stars and determined by fate. More often, true love can be found and realized through  scientific knowledge on romantic love and marriage, mature and realistic decision-making process, and proper social positioning and management of the social tools of romantic love.

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